Friday, July 11, 2014

Sun Valley cuts $300K from draft budget

Nonprofit funding, police overtime among reductions


By AMY BUSEK
Express Staff Writer

At the behest of the City Council, Sun Valley Mayor Dewayne Briscoe on Thursday, July 3, cut more than $300,000 from the proposed 2013-2014 fiscal year budget.
By reducing the amounts in the fixed-asset fund, workforce-housing fund and land-acquisition fund, among others, Briscoe and his staff nearly hit the $335,000 reduction council members requested of him at a June 17 meeting. With a total savings of $315,000 for the next fiscal year, council members said they were generally pleased with the revisions to the budget, which totals just over $5,648,600. The amount is close to $200,000 less than the amended budget for 2014—a number that exceeded the adopted amount by almost $400,000.
A decrease in local-option-tax revenues is estimated for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. Finance Manager Angela Walls said $987,000 in LOT revenues is projected for 2015, a 15 percent decrease from last year.
City Administrator Susan Robertson indicated in a letter to the council that the city will have an estimated 47 percent of the general fund budget in reserves at the start of fiscal year 2015 and should be “more than adequately protected” even if the local-option-tax yields low returns. The city of Sun Valley, she wrote, has a policy of keeping between 16 and 32 weeks worth of an operating budget in savings, or between 31 and 61 percent of the total budget.
Included in Briscoe’s cuts were a few thousand dollars here and there snipped from local nonprofit groups, including $5,000 dollars from the Sun Valley Economic Development business advocacy group. They had asked for $10,000, and following a plea from Councilman Peter Hendricks, the council voted to raise that amount up to $8,500.
‘The cuts are painful to me,” Briscoe said. “I went across the board and made equal cuts on nonprofits back to what their year before was. If I was going to cut one, I’d cut them all the same amount.”


The cuts are painful to me.”
Dewayne Briscoe
Mayor




Briscoe said he met with the heads of city departments to determine where cuts could be made. For the Sun Valley Police Department, he proposed cutting from the overtime salary budget since the department is currently fully staffed.
Mountain Rides, the valley-wide bus service, asked for a 2 percent increase in funding due to raised labor costs, for a total of $255,000. Briscoe cut the Mountain Rides funding down to $250,000, which is the amount it received last year. He said the reduction would not reduce essential services and the popular Elkhorn Bus Buddies program wouldn’t be compromised.
Hendricks said the city should consider giving some of the LOT revenue to valley transportation to support tourism and Councilwoman Michelle Griffith agreed.
    Councilman Franz Suhaldonik made a motion to further decrease the Mountain Rides budget by $15,000. He proposed putting that money back into the streets budget.
    Wendy Crosby, Mountain Rides business manager, discussed the company’s concerns with rising fuel costs coupled with the changing job market in the valley. Mountain Rides doesn’t purchase its fuel in bulk, she said, because it’s not economical.
    Suhaldonik’s motion failed, as he was the only member to vote for the transportation reduction.  
    In a motion from Hendricks that passed 3-1, the city will allocate up to $300,000 for the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance. The city will “true up” mid-year and at year-end to distribute 25 percent of the LOT taxes to the organization. As Griffith explained it, the city will pay one-twelfth of the $300,000 dollars for the first six months, and then recalibrate the amount at the six-month mark, given the recent LOT receipts.
    The tentative budget was passed 3-1 with Suhaldonik dissenting. The annual appropriation ordinance will be Aug. 7 at 4:15 p.m.
Amy Busek: abusek@mtexpress.com




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